Heritage and RetroRetro

A Mr Scott on his precision driving test. This looks like the former parade ground of Victoria Barracks now, Pembroke Park, Old Portsmouth Copyright: Other 3rd Party

15 historic photos of Victoria Barracks before it was demolished

Take a look into the past at this interesting military barracks that was demolished in 1967.

By Deborah CrokerTuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:43 pmUpdated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:43 pm

The barracks were built in 1880 on the edge of Southsea and consisted of a pair of long barrack ranges, linked by arcades at either end to form a narrow quadrangle.

There was a separate Officers’ Quarters and Mess Establishment to the south-west.

The first unit to use the barracks was the 1st Battalion, the South Lancashire Regiment, and a large parade ground was built.

During the Second World War the central tower of the Officers’ Quarters was bombed and seriously damaged. After the war the buildings were used by the navy to train new recruits.

After the barracks were demolished in 1967 the site was redeveloped for homes and is now known as Pembroke Park.

MORE RETRO PHOTOS: Southsea Castle | Clarence Pier and Parade | Eastney Barracks

1. Victoria Barracks

This is a view of Divisions on Victoria Barracks parade ground in 1954. This vista is from the Duchess of Kent Barracks and we see sailors and wrens standing to attention.

Photo: The News archive

Copyright: Other 3rd PartyBuy photo

This is a view of Divisions on Victoria Barracks parade ground in 1954. This vista is from the Duchess of Kent Barracks and we see sailors and wrens standing to attention.

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War Nothing To Celebrate, a Rich Man’s Game. May 24th 2020

An Epic of Salvage: UC-5

UC-5 moored at Sheerness after capture Image Appledene Photographics/Archive

A separate article describes the horrific sinking of the hospital ship Anglia close to English south-coast in 1915. (Click here to read it). She was a victim of a submarine-laid mine, a weapon that was to prove a deadly menace during World War 1. Such mines not only inflicted direct losses it but were also effective in restricting or closing harbour approaches and shipping lanes for long periods once their presence was detected. The German submarine responsible for the Anglia was the small UC-5, a craft specially designed for minelaying. Her operational career was a short one – from late July 1915 until April 1916, a mere nine months – but in this time she was responsible for sinking a total of 29 ships, with a total gross tonnage of 36,288 tons. Few warships have ever been so cost-effective in terms of investment needed to sink a ton of shipping.

Artist’s impression of Anglia’s final plunge, November 17th 1915

The fifteen submarines of the UC class displaced 168 tons on the surface and were a mere 111-feet long. Single-shafted, with a 90-hp diesel, and a 175-hp electric motor, they were slow – 6.5 knots on the surface and 5.5 knots submerged – and this was hardly a disadvantage since it enhanced the stealth with which their operations must be conducted.  With a crew of 15, they carried no torpedoes and their purpose was to drop the twelve 39-inch diameter mines that they carried in six tubes inclined slightly off vertical. Their short range was not a disadvantage when they operated along the British coast from bases in Belgium.

Contemporary cutaway drawing of UC-5.  Note mines in inclined tubes ahead of the conning tower

UC-5 was to be the first of these German vessels to pass safely through the British defences – including minefields – that protected the Dover Straits and to reach the wider waters of the English Channel beyond. It was here that UC-5’s mines were to claim the Anglia as well as many other victims. It was however further north, on the approaches to the British base at Harwich, from which light forces operated in the Southern North Sea, that the UC-5’s luck ran out. The attraction of the area was obvious – twelve mines laid in the approaches to Harwich would have had a high likelihood of claiming a warship victim. The complication was however shallow water offshore – the Shipwash Shoal lay some twelve miles to the north-east of Harwich and it was across this that the UC-5’s commander, Oberleutant Ulrich Mohrbutte intended to make his approach. It was in the course of doing so on April 27th 1916 that the UC-5 grounded as the tide dropped.

Unable to break free, and with a clear possibility of capture, Mohrbutter ordered charts and papers to be destroyed and for scuttling charges to be put in place. He sent a radio signal to the German base at Zeebrugge to give news of his plight and this was picked up by the British. The Royal Navy destroyer Firedrake was accordingly sent to investigate, arriving in early afternoon. As she approached the stranded submarine – her own draught was shallower – the German crew were seen to be standing on the deck and holding up their hands. When Firedrake drew still nearer, the Germans jumped into the water and were soon picked up by boats dropped by the destroyer.

It was thought that the entire German crew had been rescued when one last man was seen emerging from below, shouting and waving his hands frantically, and then jumping overboard. He was picked up and shortly afterwards several explosions racked the stranded submarine, and brown smoke poured from her conning-tower. The scuttling charges had been fired. The craft settled on the shoal beneath but the mines on board – all twelve – did not explode.

UC-5 in British hands, afloat after salvage and repair

Once satisfied that no further explosions were likely, Firedrake’s Torpedo-Lieutenant Quentin Paterson and two other officers went across. Even though damaged, the UC-5 was a valuable prize, the first German U-boat to be captured virtually intact and one that was likely to reveal significant technical information. She was however sufficiently holed to make flotation at high tide and towing to Harwich impossible. Measures were accordingly put in hand to mobilise divers and salvage equipment to recover her. Before these arrived Paterson made a full examination that revealed that though ten of the mines were still secure in their tubes, two had been dropped – as part of the scuttling procedure – and now lay loose at the bottom of the tubes and resting on the sand beneath. The danger was that movement of the submarine’s hull could be enough to detonate them. All salvage efforts had therefore to be delayed until the mines were made safe.

Lieutenant Paterson himself, together with two others, one a diver, undertook this very hazardous work. The ten mines still in the tubes were disarmed by the removal of the acid detonation tubes from the contact horns but it was impossible to do this with the lower mines, which therefore remained active. It was found that the two projecting mines could not be drawn back into the tubes, nor could they be disarmed, so they were secured where they were with cables in such a way as to ensure that they could not drop further. The danger remained however of them being detonated by the hull bumping on the sand when it was time to move it.

UC-5 being transported in sections through Central Park, New York

Responsibility for the salvage was assigned to Commodore Sir Frederic William Young (1859-1927), a naval-reserve officer who in civilian life was the nation’s, and perhaps the world’s, best respected salvage expert. Working now in the open sea, in the middle of a war zone, and with the two unexploded mines a constant danger, the recovery of the UC-5 was to prove one of his greatest challenges. The UC-5 was by now sinking ever deeper into the sand as the tides washed around her. A lighter was brought alongside and the hull was lashed to it at four places with heavy cables – passing these under the hull by water-jetting must have been a terrifying ordeal for the divers who did so. The first attempt at lifting as the tide rose (and as the lighter was deballasted) ended in failure. The cables parted and the hull dropped back on the seabed, luckily without setting off the mines. The process had to start over, this time with yet heavier cables and a larger lighter to which the UC-5’s hull was secured at low water. The lighter’s side tanks nearer the submarine were pumped dry and her outer tanks were filled with water so as to act as a counterweight. This time the UC-5 was raised safely. She was towed into Harwich and placed in a floating dock in which the two projecting mines were safely removed. The entire operation had taken 27 days.

UC-5 in Central Park in 1918 – a focus for sale of War Bonds

The UC-5 was to have a strange afterlife. Examined meticulously to understand her working, she was subsequently patched up and taken to London where she was put on display – an amazing sight since submarines represented cutting-edge technology and the vast majority of the population had never seen one. When the United States entered the war a year later the submarine was cut into sections and sent to New York. She was reassembled in Central Park and there also she became an object of wonder, all the more so since it was outrage at German unrestricted submarine warfare that had drawn the United States into the conflict.

And the heroes of this epic? Paterson was awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) and his diver the CSM (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal). They were hard earned.

Hong Kong ceded to the British

Protestors, Nov 2019, backed by Britain and U.S set fire to Chinese man in Hong Kong.

During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.

In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. In 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system. 

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese and British dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based upon the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.

Kett’s Rebellion

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Kett’s Rebellion

An 18th-century depiction of Robert Kett and his followers under the Oak of Reformation on Mousehold Heath
Date8 July 1549 – 27 August 1549LocationNorfolkResult Victory for Edwardian forces, rebellion suppressed, execution of rebel commanders
East Anglian rebels  Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Robert Kett Edward VI of England
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick
William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton
~16,000 rebels ~12,000 troops
~1,200 German mercenaries
Casualties and losses
At least 3,000 killed
Unknown wounded
~3,000 deaths

Kett’s Rebellion was a revolt in Norfolk, England during the reign of Edward VI, largely in response to the enclosure of land. It began at Wymondham on 8 July 1549 with a group of rebels destroying fences that had been put up by wealthy landowners. One of their targets was yeoman farmer Robert Kett who, instead of resisting the rebels, agreed to their demands and offered to lead them. Kett and his forces, joined by recruits from Norwich and the surrounding countryside and numbering some 16,000, set up camp on Mousehold Heath to the north-east of the city on 12 July. The rebels stormed Norwich on 29 July and took the city. On 1 August the rebels defeated a Royal Army led by the Marquess of Northampton who had been sent by the government to suppress the uprising. Kett’s rebellion ended on 27 August when the rebels were defeated by an army under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Dussindale. Kett was captured, held in the Tower of London, tried for treason, and hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle on 7 December 1549.



The 1540s saw a crisis in agriculture in England. With the majority of the population depending on the land, this led to outbreaks of unrest across the country. Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk was the most serious of these. The main grievance of the rioters was enclosure, the fencing of common land by landlords for their own use. Enclosure left peasants with nowhere to graze their animals. Some landowners were forcing tenants off their farms so that they could engross their holdings and convert arable land into pasture for sheep, which had become more profitable as demand for wool increased.[1] Inflation, unemployment, rising rents and declining wages added to the hardships faced by the common people.[2] As the historian Mark Cornwall put it, they “could scarcely doubt that the state had been taken over by a breed of men whose policy was to rob the poor for the benefit of the rich”.[3]

Uprising at Wymondham

Kett’s Rebellion is remembered on Wymondham‘s town sign

Kett’s rebellion, or “the commotion time” as it was also called in Norfolk, began in July 1549 in the small market town of Wymondham, nearly ten miles south-west of Norwich. The previous month there had been a minor disturbance at the nearby town of Attleborough where fences, built by the lord of the manor to enclose common lands, were torn down. The rioters thought they were acting legally, since Edward Seymour (1st Duke of Somerset, and Lord Protector during part of Edward VI‘s minority) had issued a proclamation against illegal enclosures.[4] Wymondham held its annual feast on the weekend of 6 July 1549 and a play in honour of St Thomas Becket, the co-patron of Wymondham Abbey, was performed. This celebration was illegal, as Henry VIII had decreed in 1538 that the name of Thomas Becket should be removed from the church calendar. On the Monday, when the feast was over, a group of people set off to the villages of Morley St. Botolph and Hethersett to tear down hedges and fences. One of their first targets was Sir John Flowerdew, a lawyer and landowner at Hethersett who was unpopular for his role as overseer of the demolition of Wymondham Abbey (part of which was the parish church) during the dissolution of the monasteries and for enclosing land. Flowerdew bribed the rioters to leave his enclosures alone and instead attack those of Robert Kett at Wymondham.[5]

Kett was about 57 years old and was one of the wealthier farmers in Wymondham. The Ketts (also spelt Ket, Cat, Chat, or Knight) had been farming in Norfolk since the twelfth century. Kett was the son of Tom and Margery Kett and had several brothers, and clergyman Francis Kett was his nephew. Two or possibly three of Kett’s brothers were dead by 1549, but his eldest brother William joined him in the rebellion.[6] Kett’s wife, Alice, and several sons are not recorded as having been involved in the rebellion.[7] Kett had been prominent among the parishioners in saving their parish church when Wymondham Abbey was demolished and this had led to conflict with Flowerdew.[8] Having listened to the rioters’ grievances, Kett decided to join their cause and helped them tear down his own fences before taking them back to Hethersett where they destroyed Flowerdew’s enclosures.[9] “By bearing a confident countenance in all his actions, the Vulgars took him (Kett) to be both valiant and wise, and a fit man to be their commander”

Sir John Hayward, Life of King Edward VI[10]

Kett’s Oak, beside the B1172, near Hethersett, Norfolk

The following day, Tuesday 9 July, the protesters set off for Norwich. By now Kett was their leader and they were being joined by people from nearby towns and villages.[11] A local tradition holds that a meeting point for the rebels was an oak tree on the road between Wymondham and Hethersett, where nine of the rebels were later hanged. Known as Kett’s Oak, it has been preserved by Norfolk County Council.[12][13] The oak became a symbol of the rebellion when an oak tree on Mousehold Heath was made the centre of the rebel camp, but this “Oak of Reformation” no longer stands.[14]

Mousehold camp

Kett and his followers camped for the night of 9 July at Bowthorpe, just west of Norwich. Here they were approached by the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, Sir Edmund Wyndham, who ordered them to disperse. The response was negative, and the sheriff retreated back to Norwich. Next the rebels were visited by the mayor of Norwich, Thomas Codd, who met a similar response. The following night the rebels camped at nearby Eaton Wood and then, having been refused permission to march through Norwich to reach Mousehold Heath north-east of the city, crossed the River Wensum at Hellesdon and spent the night at Drayton. On Friday 12 July, the rebels reached Mousehold, where they had a vantage point overlooking Norwich, and set up the camp that was their base for the next six and a half weeks.[15] The camp was the largest of several rebel camps that had appeared in East Anglia that summer. The rebels were known at the time as the “camp men” and the rebellion as the “camping tyme” or “commotion tyme”.[16]

An early 19th-century painting of Mousehold Heath by local artist John Crome

Kett set up his headquarters in St Michael’s Chapel, the ruins of which have since been known as Kett’s Castle.[17] Mount Surrey, a house built by the Earl of Surrey on the site of the despoiled St Leonard’s Priory, had lain empty since the Earl’s execution in 1547 and was used to hold Kett’s prisoners. Kett’s council, which consisted of representatives from the Hundreds of Norfolk and one representative from Suffolk met under the Oak of Reformation to administer the camp, issuing warrants to obtain provisions and arms and arrest members of the gentry.[18] According to one source the Oak of Reformation was cut down by Norwich City Council in the 1960s to make way for a car park,[19] although Reg Groves wrote in the 1940s that it had already been destroyed.[20] The camp was joined by workers and artisans from Norwich, and by people from the surrounding towns and villages, until it was larger than Norwich, at that time the second-largest city in England with a population of about 12,000. The city authorities, having sent messengers to London, remained in negotiation with the rebels and Mayor Thomas Codd, former Mayor Thomas Aldrich and preacher Robert Watson accepted the rebels’ invitation to take part in their council.[21]

Wikisource has original text related to this article: Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion

Once the camp was established at Mousehold the rebels drew up a list of 29 grievances,[22] signed by Kett, Codd, Aldrich and the representatives of the Hundreds, and sent it to Protector Somerset.[23] The grievances have been described by one historian as a shopping-list of demands but which nevertheless have a strong logic underlying them, articulating “a desire to limit the power of the gentry, exclude them from the world of the village, constrain rapid economic change, prevent the overexploitation of communal resources, and remodel the values of the clergy”.[24] Although the rebels were all the while tearing down hedges and filling in ditches, only one of the 29 articles mentioned enclosure: ‘We pray your grace that where it is enacted for enclosing, that it be not hurtful to such as have enclosed saffren grounds, for they be greatly chargeable to them, and that from henceforth no man shall enclose any more.’ The exemption for ‘saffren grounds’ has puzzled historians; one has suggested that it may have been a scribal error for ‘sovereign grounds’, grounds that were the exclusive freehold property of their owners,[25] while others have commented on the importance of saffron to local industry.[26] The rebels also asked ‘that all bondmen may be made free, for God made all free, with his precious blood shedding.’ The rebels may have been articulating a grievance against the 1547 Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds, which made it legal to enslave a discharged servant who did not find a new master within three days, though they may also have been calling for the manumission of the thousands of Englishmen and women who were serfs.[27] (In 1549, an Act Touching on the Punishment of Vagabonds and Other Idle Persons avoided the word “slave” but retained many of the harshest provisions of the 1547 Act.)

The truce between the city and the camp was ended on 21 July by a messenger from the King’s Council, York Herald Bartholomew Butler, who arrived at Norwich from London, went with city officials to Mousehold, proclaimed the gathering a rebellion, and offered pardon. Kett rejected the offer, saying he had no need of a pardon because he had committed no treason. York Herald lacked the forces to arrest the rebels and retreated into Norwich with the Mayor. Kett and his followers were now officially rebels; the authorities therefore shut the city gates and set about preparing the city defences.[28]

Fall of Norwich

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Norwich at the time of Kett’s Rebellion

Kett was now left with a decision. He would not, probably could not, disperse the camp, but without access to the markets of Norwich, his people would starve. It was therefore decided to attack Norwich.

In the late evening of 21 July 1549, rebel artillery positioned on and beneath Mount Surrey, the heights opposite the Bishopsgate bridge, at the top of which now stands a memorial to the rebellion, opened fire. The bombardment and the response from the city’s artillery entrenched next to the bridge and around the Cow Tower lasted through the night.

At first light on 22 July, Kett withdrew his artillery. The city defenders had repositioned six artillery pieces in the meadow behind the hospital (now the cricket ground of Norwich school) and were laying down such an accurate fire that the rebels feared the loss of all their guns. Under a flag of truce the rebels demanded access to the city, which the city authorities refused.

Kett’s artillery, now on the slopes of Mousehold Heath, opened fire on the city. The guns in the hospital meadow could not reach far enough uphill to return the fire. At this point an assault began, ordered by Kett or perhaps by other rebel leaders. Thousands of rebels charged down from Mousehold and began swimming the Wensum between the Cow Tower and Bishops Gate. The city defenders fired volleys of arrows into the rebels as they crossed, but could not stop the attack. A running battle ensued. In the market square the York Herald tried to address the rebels, but as threats were made against him he fled in fear of his life. England’s second largest city was in the hands of a rebel army.[29]

Attacks on the rebels

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The King sent the Marquess of Northampton with 1,500 men, including Italian mercenaries, to quell the rebellion. As he drew near to the city he sent forward his herald to demand the surrender of the city. The Deputy Mayor, Augustine Steward, responded. It was conveyed that the rebels had retreated back to the safety of the high ground overlooking the city. Kett had already seen how difficult it was to defend miles of walls and gates and had instead chosen to withdraw. It was much more prudent to allow Northampton’s tiny army to defend the city while he again laid siege to it.

On the night of 31 July, the Royal army made its defensive preparations and started patrolling the city’s narrow streets. Around midnight alarms rang out, waking Northampton. It appeared hundreds of rebels were using the cover of darkness and their knowledge of the maze of small streets and alleys around Tombland to launch hit-and-run attacks on Royal troops. Lord Sheffield suggested constructing ramparts along the eastern side of the city, which was open to attack, and warned that the rebels were crossing the river around Bishopsgate with ease.

By 8 am the following morning, 1 August, the ramparts were strengthened between the Cow Tower and Bishopsgate, so Sheffield retired to The Maid’s Head inn for breakfast. A little after this, Northampton received information that the rebels wished to discuss surrender and were gathering around the Pockthorpe gate. Sheffield went with the Herald to discuss this apparent good turn of events with the rebels. On arrival, Sheffield found no rebels at all. It appears to have been either a false rumour or a diversion, as at that point thousands of rebels again began crossing the River Wensum around Bishopsgate.

Northampton’s main force was in the market place. As the attack developed, he fed men through the streets into a growing and vicious street battle across the whole eastern area of the city. Seeing things going the rebels’ way, Sheffield took command of a body of cavalry and charged the rebels across the cathedral precinct, past St Martin at Place Church and into Bishopsgate Street. Outside the Great Hospital in Bishopsgate Street, Sheffield fell from his horse into a ditch. Expecting then to be captured and ransomed, as was the custom, he removed his helmet, only to be killed by a blow from a rebel, reputedly a butcher named Fulke.

With the loss of a senior commander and his army being broken up in street fighting, Northampton ordered a retreat. The retreat did not stop until the remnants of the Royal Army reached Cambridge.

The Earl of Warwick led the force that defeated the rebels

The Earl of Warwick was then sent with a stronger army of around 14,000 men including mercenaries from Wales, Germany and Spain. Warwick had previously fought in France, was a former member of the House of Commons and subsequently the Privy Council, making him a strong leader. Despite the increased threat, the rebels were loyal to Kett throughout and continued to fight Warwick’s men.

Northampton served as Warwick’s second-in-command in the second attempt to deal with the rebel host, this time with a much larger force. Warwick managed to enter the city on 24 August by attacking the St Stephen’s and Brazen gates. The rebels retreated through the city, setting fire to houses as they went in an attempt to slow the Royal army’s advance. About 3 pm Warwick’s baggage train entered the city. It managed to get lost and rather than halting in the market place it continued through Tombland and straight down Bishopsgate Street towards the rebel army. A group of rebels saw the train from Mousehold and ran down into the city to capture it. Captain Drury led his men in an attempt to recapture the train, which included all the artillery. He managed to salvage some of the guns in yet another fierce fight around Bishopsgate.

At 10 pm that same night shouts of “fire” started. The rebels had entered the city and were burning it. Warwick was in the same trap as Northampton had been, surrounded inside a city in danger of being burnt to the ground.

At first light on 25 August the rebels changed tactics. Their artillery broke down the walls around the northern area of the city near the Magdalen and Pockthorpe gates. With the north of the city again in rebel hands, Warwick launched an attack. Bitter street fighting eventually cleared the city once again. The rebels bombarded the city throughout the day and night.

On 26 August, 1,500 foreign mercenaries arrived in the city. These were German “landsknechts“, a mix of handgunners and pikemen. With these reinforcements and the townsfolk, Warwick now had an army so formidable it could no longer hide within the city. Kett and his people were aware of this, and that night they left their camp at Mousehold for lower ground in preparation for battle.

During the morning of 27 August, the armies faced each other outside the city. The final battle took place at Dussindale, and was a disaster for the rebels. In the open, against well-armed and trained troops, thousands were killed and the rest ran for their lives.

The location of Dussindale has never been established. The most popular theory is that the dale began in the vicinity of the Plumstead Road East allotments that swept into Valley Drive and into the present remnant of Mousehold, into the Long Valley and out into what is now Gertrude Road and the allotments. In Victorian times this area was known as ‘Ketts Meadow’. The name Dussindale has been given to a recent housing development in nearby Thorpe St Andrew.


About 3,000 rebels are thought to have been killed at Dussindale, with Warwick’s army losing some 250 men.[30] The morning after the battle, 28 August, rebels were hanged at the Oak of Reformation and outside the Magdalen Gate. Estimates of the number vary from 30 to 300. Warwick had already executed 49 rebels when he had entered Norwich a few days before.[31] There is only one attested incident in which the rebels had killed in cold blood: one of Northampton’s Italian mercenaries had been hanged following his capture.[32]

Kett was captured at the village of Swannington the night after the battle and taken, together with his brother William, to the Tower of London to await trial for treason. Found guilty, the brothers were returned to Norwich at the beginning of December. Kett was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle on 7 December 1549; on the same day William was hanged from the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.


“In 1549 AD Robert Kett yeoman farmer of Wymondham was executed by hanging in this Castle after the defeat of the Norfolk Rebellion of which he was leader. In 1949 AD – four hundred years later – this Memorial was placed here by the citizens of Norwich in reparation and honour to a notable and courageous leader in the long struggle of the common people of England to escape from a servile life into the freedom of just conditions”

Plaque on the wall of Norwich Castle

In 1550, the Norwich authorities decreed that in future 27 August should be a holiday to commemorate “the deliverance of the city” from Kett’s Rebellion, and paid for lectures in the cathedral and parish churches on the sins of rebellion.[33] This tradition continued for over a century.

The rising was discussed by Sir John Cheke in The hurt of sedicion howe greueous it is to a commune welth, (1549).[34] The only known surviving eye-witness account of the rebellion, a manuscript by Nicholas Sotherton, son of a Norwich mayor, is hostile towards the rebels. So too is Alexander Neville’s 1575 Latin history of the rebellion, De furoribus Norfolciensium. Neville was secretary to Matthew Parker, who had preached to Kett’s followers under the Oak of Reformation on Mousehold, unsuccessfully appealing to them to disperse.[35] In 1615 Neville’s work was translated into English by Norfolk clergyman Richard Woods under the title Norfolke Furies and was reprinted throughout the following century. Francis Blomefield‘s detailed account in his History of Norwich (published in parts during 1741 and 1742) was based on Neville but supplemented with material from other sources such as the works of Raphael Holinshed, Peter Heylin and Thomas Fuller, together with various local records. ‘Blomefield allowed himself sufficient impartiality to be able to set out, without comment, the grievances of those taking part, but heaped abuse on them for going further than their original intentions’.[36]

It was only in the 19th century that more sympathetic portrayals of the rebellion appeared in print and started the process that saw Kett transformed from traitor to folk hero. An anonymous work of 1843 was critical of Neville’s account of the rebellion, and in 1859 clergyman Frederic Russell, who had unearthed new material in archives for his account of the rebellion, concluded that “though Kett is commonly considered a rebel, yet the cause he advocated is so just, that one cannot but feel he deserved a better name and a better fate”.[37]

Robert Kett’s death is commemorated in 2011

In 1948, Alderman Fred Henderson, a former mayor of Norwich who had been imprisoned in the Castle for his part in the food riots of 1885, proposed a memorial to Kett. Originally hoping for a statue, he settled for a plaque on the walls of Norwich Castle engraved with his words and unveiled in 1949, 400 years after the rebellion.[38] In the 21st century the death of Kett is still remembered by the people of Norwich. On 7 December 2011, the anniversary of his death, a memorial march by members of Norwich Occupy and Norwich Green Party took place and a wreath was laid by the gates of Norwich Castle.[39]

Kett’s Oak or the Oak of Reformation on Kett House, an office block in Station Road, Cambridge; Willi Soukop, sculptor

After the rebellion the lands of Kett and his brother William were forfeited, although some of them were later restored to one of his sons. In the longer term the Kett family do not seem to have suffered from their association with the rebellion, but to have prospered in various parts of Norfolk.[40] George Kett, a descendant of Kett’s younger brother Thomas, moved to Cambridge and co-founded the architectural masonry company of Rattee and Kett. George Kett’s son, also George, was mayor of Cambridge on three occasions and compiled a genealogy of the Kett family.[41]

The rebellion is remembered in the names of schools, streets, pubs and a walking route in the Norwich and Wymondham area, including the Robert Kett Junior School in Wymondham, Dussindale Primary School in Norwich, the Robert Kett pub in Wymondham, Kett House residence at the University of East Anglia, and Kett’s Tavern in Norwich,[42] and in a folk band, Lewis Garland and Kett’s Rebellion, and a beer, Kett’s Rebellion, by Woodforde’s Brewery in Norwich.

Kett’s rebellion has featured in novels, including Frederick H. Moore’s Mistress Haselwode: A tale of the Reformation Oak (1876), F.C. Tansley’s For Kett and Countryside (1910), Jack Lindsay‘s The Great Oak (1949), Sylvia Haymon’s children’s story The Loyal Traitor (1965), Margaret Callow’s A Rebellious Oak (2012), and C.J. Sansom‘s Tombland (2018); plays, including George Colman Green’s Kett the tanner (1909); and poetry, including Keith Chandler’s collection Kett’s Rebellion and Other Poems (1982). In 1988 British composer Malcolm Arnold produced the Robert Kett Overture (Opus 141), inspired by the rebellion.

Notes and references

Cornwall 1977, 11 Cornwall 1977, 19–20 Cornwall 1977, 23 Beer 1982, 82–83 Land 1977, 42 Land 1977, 23–4, 43 Land 1977, 145–9. Alice Kett has been tentatively identified as the daughter of Sir Nicholas Appleyard, making Kett uncle by marriage to two of the men he took prisoner during the rebellion, and to Flowerdew’s daughter-in-law. Alice Kett’s brother’s widow married Sir John Robsart and was the mother of Amy Robsart. Land 1977, 22–23 Land 1977, 43 Quoted in Clayton 1912, 48 Land 1977, 44 “Kett’s Oak”. Norfolk Heritage Explorer. Norfolk County Council. Pictures of Kett’s Oak through the ages on Hethersett village website Land 1977, 44,60 Land 1977, 42–47 Wood 2002, 62–63 Groves 1947, 31 Wood 2002, 64 Wyler 2009, 16 Groves 1947, 109 (“an old map of Mousehold shows that it stood where the Water Tower now stands near the junction of Primrose Road and Telegraph Lane”) Groves 1947, 34 Russell 1859, 48–56 (the 29 articles with explanatory notes) Dunning, Andrew. “‘Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion'”. Medieval Manuscripts Blog. The British Library. Retrieved 20 November 2016. Wood 2002, 66 MacCulloch 1979 Land 1977, 68 Diarmaid MacCulloch ,”Bondmen under the Tudor”, Law and Government under the Tudors: Essays Presented to Sir Geoffrey Elton, ed. Claire Cross et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 91–93. Land 1977, 78–9 [1] Land 1977, 123 Land 1977, 124–5 Land 1977, 94 Wood 2007, 228 John Cheke, The hurt of sedicion howe greueous it is to a commune welth, (London: Iohn Daye and Wylliam Seres, 1549), ESTC S107791. Land 1977, 75 David Stoker, ‘Francis Blomefield as a historian of Norwich’, Norfolk Archaeology, LIV (2005). 387-405, 393. Russell 1859, quoted in Wood 2007, 260 Wood 2007, 262–4 “A New Economic Story – The Courageous State”. Green Party (UK). 2 December 2011. Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012. Land 1977, 144–5 A photograph of George Kett, Mayor of Cambridge, on Cambridge City Council website

  1. M. Pentelow and P. Arkell, People’s Pubs: Robert Kett Archived 5 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine, RMT News, July/August 2010, 36


  • Beer, B.L. 1982 Rebellion and Riot: popular disorder in England during the reign of Edward VI. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press
  • Clayton, J. 1912 Robert Kett and the Norfolk Rising. London: Martin Secker
  • Cornwall, J. 1977 Revolt of the Peasantry 1549. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
  • Groves, R. 1947 Rebel’s Oak: the story of the great rebellion of 1549. London: Red Flag Fellowship
  • Land, Stephen K. (1977). Kett’s rebellion: The Norfolk rising of 1549. Ipswich: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-084-0.
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (8 January 1979). “Kett’s Rebellion in Context”. Past & Present. 84 (1): 36–59. doi:10.1093/past/84.1.36. ISSN 0031-2746. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  • Russell, Frederic William (1859). Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk. London: Longmans, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  • Wood, Andy (2002). Riot, rebellion and popular politics in early modern England. Social history in perspective. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-63761-6.
  • Wood, Andy (2007). The 1549 rebellions and the making of early modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83206-9.
  • Wyler, S. 2009 A history of community asset ownership. London: Development Trusts Association

External links

vteMedieval and Early Modern European peasant wars


How Bashar al-Assad Became So Hated Posted April 26th 2020

The Western-educated ophthalmologist was never intended to be the Assad brother in charge. Did his inept policies contribute to the civil war?

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus on January 6, 2013. (Reuters)

The current president of Syria never aspired to be involved in politics. His brother Bassel Al-Assad was being groomed to become his father’s successor. His name summoned images of a vocal, shrewd, dynamic man who was a parachutist, a ladies’ man, an accomplished athlete, and an outgoing statesman. Bassel al-Assad was very popular and idolized by the Syrian youth. Everyone was certain that he would be the next president of Syria, after his father Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the current regime.

Compared to Bassel, his brother Bashar was not as charismatic or appealing. When I was a student in high school, I would walk the busy streets of Damascus, Aleppo, or Latakia and find the walls and windows of shops and buildings papered with posters and photographs of Bassel. His images were even plastered across cars, but there was not a trace of Bashar’s presence.

Bashar did not seek out recognition or popularity. He had no interest in being in the middle of politics, as his brother did. In his school days, he was perceived by the Syrian society as a shy, reserved, weak, hesitant child who did not inherit any of his father’s or brother’s intelligence and leadership. Regardless of the assumptions of the entire country, soon the invisible hand of history would sweep away these perceptions prove everyone wrong.

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Unlike his dynamic brother, the people of Syria viewed Bashar as a nerd, not someone with the instincts or the drive to lead a country. “He’s certainly not a leader,” my cousin, who was later killed in the recent uprising, and his friends would say of Bashar. Even a sympathizer with the regime, an Alawite named Abu Hisham, would say, “Bashar can not stand against powers such as Israel and the United States. We need a leader who is strong like Bassel.”

Even Bashar’s physical appearance — his thin frame — gave him an image of frailness. Nor did Bashar seem interested in projecting leadership; he was looking for a normal, peaceful, luxurious life somewhere in Europe with a prospective wife.

Bassel was following in the footsteps of his father, though he was a little wilder than his father had ever been. Bashar’s sister Bushra was confident and influential in the country. Bashar was viewed as the “momma’s boy,” and was often seen as a bit of a joke, according to Jean-Marie Quemener , a journalist who has written about Assad . (Even during the recent uprising, people would lampoon him in a satirical web series where he is labeled as “Beesho,” or “baby Bashar.”)

However, while the entire country focused on his alluring older brother, Bashar was educating himself. He learned to be fluent in French at the Arab-French Al Hurriya School in Damascus and graduated from high school the same year of the Hama massacre, during which an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people were killed by his father. Bashar had a love for medicine, and he continued his education at the University of Damascus. As dedicated as he was to his country, he was always more attracted to the Western style of life than his father and siblings, so after finishing his residency in ophthalmology at the Tishreen military hospital outside of Damascus, Bashar then traveled to England in 1992 to study at the Western Eye Hospital.

At the same time, his father was grooming Bassel to become the future president and vivacious leader that the country expected him to be. Bashar was savoring a comfortable life in a luxurious home and continuing on as a deeply devoted medical student. He appeared to adore the anonymity that London offered him.

Bashar’s years living in London made his attraction to the Western style of living to grow even stronger. His later speeches would indicate that he always wondered why Syria had not evolved in a similar way, and that he wished his country was more modernized.

Then one day in 1994, Bashar received the phone call that would alter his life forever. His brother Bassel had died in a car accident. Since that day many have questioned why Bashar’s calculative father chose his quiet, subdued son to take his place, rather than Bashar’s other brother Maher, who was much more similar to Bassel.

I remember when the images and posters of Bassel started to be replaced by that of Bashar in the streets of Damascus. His father, although sick, tried hard to market his son as the symbol of “hope.” For almost two years after Bassel’s death, Bashar was not in the public eye. He was being trained in military and political affairs.

After two years, Bashar was transformed. Even his low, soft, child-like voice seemed to be tougher, and his stance became more confident and powerful. But many Syrian people would say that though Bashar changed on the surface, he had not changed on the inside. They believe he was still an anxious man with vacillating moods, just as he was when he was a child. Despite these misgivings, Bashar is considered the most articulate Arab leader; he is the only one who speaks Fusha (formal) Arabic most of the time.

When he assumed power, the lifestyle the West still occupied Assad’s mind — In his inaugural speech he emphasized that it was time to begin modernizing Syria. But to modernize Syria and remake it in the “image” he desired, he needed to adopt neo-liberal and capitalist policies, both of which stirred up a strong resistance from his father’s old guard, who founded the socialist and secular Ba’ath Party. Not knowing the long-term consequences of marrying neoliberalism with the authoritarian structure, Bashar gained short-term benefits with his vast changes, but he also planted the seed of revolution.

In the beginning of his rule, he introduced the Damascus Spring, which included some political reforms that would suit the economic changes he planned. But when he saw that the reaction to his political shake-up was endangering his own throne, he retreated to old policies of mass repression, relying on Mukhabarat, the secret security police, to enforce his commands.

Internal clashes and tensions between Bashar and his father’s old guard were inevitable. Men such as Ali Duba (former head of the Syrian military intelligence and a close adviser to the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad) as well as hardliners such as his brother Maher al-Assad (commander of the Republican Guard and the army’s elite Fourth Armored Division), held such opposing views to that of their new leader that chaos was certain to occur.

During his early rule, Bashar became aware of the discontent and used his power to retire some of the old guard, sweeping them from power to reduce the conflict he faced.

The gradual increase of neo-liberal policies and privatization exaggerated the inequality between the poor and the rich, which was especially felt in middle-class areas, and mid-sized and large cities. While a small portion of the crony capitalists and loyalists to Assad were able to benefit from these policies, the vast majority of the population was disenfranchised. The uprising in the Arab world (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) in 2011 also sparked the revolution against Bashar, who was still perceived as an inept leader.

Unable to control the uprising, the old guard members who had been forced to retire, surged back to power to address the situation. During the uprising, some Alawite people started chanting “Bashar lal iyada wa Maher lal ghiyada,” meaning, Bashar should go back to the clinic and Maher should become the leader. Did Bashar’s mama’s boy image contribute to emboldening the people to come to streets? Did Bashar’s idealistic vision of creating a “Switzerland” Syria — but still consolidating power at the top — play a role in the uprising? Did his vast and sudden economic and neo-liberal reforms, which in the end only benefited his gilded circle, have an impact on the current civil war? Perhaps the combination of all of these factors led to the rampant rebellion and mistrust of the people that Bashar had been chosen to lead.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-Syrian scholar, is the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. 

Washington-With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Mar 7, 2019 Joe Archino


Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States on April 30, 1789.

Henry “Light Horse” Harry Lee famously eulogized George Washington as, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, president of the Constitutional Convention, and the First President of the United States, Washington dedicated the prime of his life to serving America and he rightfully holds the informal title, “Father of His Country.”

Guided by his devotion to duty, unbreakable conviction, faith, sense of responsibility, and his commitment to leading by example, Washington lived a life of honor that every American should strive to learn from.

1. Duty to Country Always Comes First

Mount Vernon was not just the place George Washington called home. For the Virginia farmer, landowner, and businessman, it was also his paradise. Washington was happiest when managing the responsibilities of his vast plantation, but when duty called, he always answered.

Mount Vernon seen from the Potomac River. Photo: baldeaglebluff / CC BY-SA 2.0
Mount Vernon seen from the Potomac River. Photo: baldeaglebluff / CC BY-SA 2.0

In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress formally established a standing army and appointed George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief. After taking command, Washington did not return to Mount Vernon until the war brought him back to Virginia in autumn 1781, giving him the chance to visit his beloved home for the first time in six years and four months.

Washington was rarely away from his men during the conflict and faithfully led the Continental Army for eight years until victory was finally achieved in 1783.

George Washington by Peale 1776.
George Washington by Peale 1776.

Having done everything in his power to secure American independence, Washington decided to retire “from all public employments” after the war. He found true peace back at Mount Vernon and was happy to “move gently down the stream of life until I sleep with my fathers.” Washington’s joyful retirement was interrupted in 1787 when his country called on him again.

The dutiful patriot traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously elected its president. Washington’s steady leadership was instrumental and the Convention ultimately crafted the United States Constitution. The new Constitution called for a single executive, and no one doubted who that executive would be.

After the Electoral College unanimously elected him, Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States on April 30, 1789. He was eager to retire after his first term, but Washington’s closest friends and advisors implored him not to, warning that the troubles facing the young nation might lead to division and chaos.

Inauguration of George Washington as first president 1789
Inauguration of George Washington as first president 1789

As Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson told him, “North and South will hang together if they have you to hang on.” Washington accepted that his country still needed him and was unanimously elected to a second term in 1793. After serving eight years in office, Washington finally returned to Mount Vernon in 1797.

In 1798, war between the United States and France seemed very likely. President John Adams appointed the nation’s most famous soldier to lead the American military effort in the event of a French invasion. Washington agreed to serve and even traveled to Philadelphia to undertake preparations for the new army. Although war was ultimately avoided, Washington once again proved that whenever his country needed him, he would abandon the comfort of his home and be there for her.

Washington spent his final days at Mount Vernon before passing away of a throat infection on December 14, 1799 at the age of 67.

Portrait of George Washington
Portrait of George Washington

Although Washington loved his home and working on his plantation more than anything, he understood that a man must never shy away from his primary duty and dedicated 17 years of his life to serving his country during the Revolutionary War, the Constitutional Convention, and the Presidency, establishing precedents and laying the groundwork for the United States to become a beacon of freedom.

George Washington’s life is a reminder that duty to country always comes first.

2. Never Give Up

George Washington considered the American triumph in the Revolutionary war “little short of a standing miracle.” From 1775 to 1783, Washington led an army that was ill-clad, poorly supplied, rarely if ever paid, and constantly plagued by scores of other issues against the world’s premier war machine of its day.

There were times during the war when all seemed lost, but no matter how many setbacks his army encountered, Washington refused to give up. His courage was never in doubt; he constantly stood by his men, and he fearlessly stared down every danger.

General Washington leading the Continental Army to Valley Forge in 1777.
General Washington leading the Continental Army to Valley Forge in 1777.

This iconic painting by William Trego was inspired by a passage from Washington Irving’s Life of George Washington: “Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge, uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph. . . Hungry and cold were the poor fellows who had so long been keeping the field . . . provisions were scant, clothing was worn out, and so badly were they off for shoes, that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood.”

As the Commander-in-Chief once reminded his soldiers, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” Washington never forgot what was at stake in the Revolutionary War and his devotion to the cause and to his soldiers ultimately paid off. As Washington believed, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” General Washington witnessed those wonders firsthand by exhibiting an unbreakable spirit and persevering to secure America’s ultimate victory over Great Britain.

George Washington never gave up, and regardless of the obstacles that stand in our way, neither should we.

3. Remember that God is Always With You

The Prayer at Valley Forge, engraved by John C. McRae. (Photo: Library of Congress)
The Prayer at Valley Forge, engraved by John C. McRae. (Photo: Library of Congress)

George Washington understood the miraculousness of America’s victory in the Revolutionary War better than anyone, and while the Commander-in-Chief did everything in his power to secure his nation’s independence, he always believed that the triumph would not have been possible without God watching over him and his army. Often using the word “Providence” to refer to God, Washington expressed this belief on many occasions:

“If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should be ascribed to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence.”

“I was but the humble Agent of favouring Heaven, whose benign interference was so often manifested in our behalf, and to whom the praise of victory alone is due.”

“The kind interposition of Providence which has been so often manifested in the affairs of this country, must naturally lead us to look up to that divine source for light and direction in this new and untried Scene.”

As we go through life, we too must always remember that no matter what we are going through, God will always be with us.

4. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

In a world run by kings, George Washington would not wear a crown. He wielded tremendous power as a general and president, but Washington was intensely aware of the great trust his fellow Americans placed in him and he never abused the power he was entrusted with.

Washington received a letter during the Revolution that slightly suggested he should assume the title of American Monarch. The seriousness of Washington’s response said everything about his character and integrity: “No occurrence in the course of the war has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army…. I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity” any idea that was “big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my country.” Washington was truly incorruptible.

Perhaps the greatest act that demonstrated Washington’s understanding of power and responsibility came when he surrendered his military commission to congress on December 23, 1783.

As he stood before the gathered congressmen in the statehouse at Annapolis, Maryland, the Commander-in-Chief declared, “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action-and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

By surrendering his military commission to a grateful Congress, Washington affirmed a principle he firmly believed in: civilian control of the military.

General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull.
General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull.

As history around the world has shown, some revolutionary leaders in Washington’s position might have attempted to seize political power. In fact, Washington had been forced to put down a potential coup d’état in March 1783 when disgruntled army officers threated to overthrow the civilian government over its failure to pay their salaries or pensions.

Upon hearing that Washington intended to peacefully surrender his commission and return home, Great Britain’s King George III reportedly said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Washington did, and during his time on this earth, he demonstrated how a true leader uses power responsibly.

Like Washington, we must also understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

5. Set an Example

A portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
A portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

In everything that he did, George Washington always set an example for others to follow. Regarding his position as the First President of the United States, Washington wrote, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.”

Washington understood that in a world where royalty reigned supreme, it was up to him to prove that the republican model of government could succeed. One of the most important ways of doing that was to ensure the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. During Washington’s time there were no term limits, and while many would have supported him in office until the day he died, Washington knew that he had to establish a precedent for others to follow.

Read another story from us: Outsmarted and Outflanked – Washington’s Defeat at Long Island

Hence, at the end of his second term, Washington stepped down as president, setting an example that lasted until President Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in 1940, and ensuring that succession would be determined by the ballot box. Today, the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures that no person can be elected to the office of the President more than twice.

There will be people in our own lives who look up to us for guidance, and like Washington, we must also understand the importance of setting an example for those individuals to follow.

The Airman Who Fell 18,000 Feet Without A Parachute & Lived

Mar 7, 2019 Jay Hemmings


Faced with a terrible choice – that of burning to death, or falling to his death, Alkemade chose the latter option.

Aerial combat, like naval combat, has many risks attached to it, many of which arise from the fact that the human beings involved in such battles are far removed from their natural element: land.

Whether a few thousand miles out to sea, or a few thousand feet up in the air, when you’re fighting so far out of your natural element, you risk death not only from your enemy’s weaponry but also from the inherent danger of falling from the skies or into the unforgiving ocean.

While we have invented means to mitigate these dangers, such as lifeboats and parachutes, if these last resorts fail death is usually a certainty.

Indeed, plummeting to the earth without a parachute from 18,000 feet in the air is pretty much guaranteed to end only one way for the unfortunate person involved – but, as history has often taught us there are always exceptions to the rules, and one man who miraculously survived a parachute-less jump from his burning airplane was World War II RAF airman Nicholas Alkemade.

Nicholas Alkemade was born in 1922 in Norfolk, England, and was a gardener before signing up with the Royal Air Force when WWII broke out. He was trained as an air gunner, and after completing his training he served as a tail gunner with RAF 115 Squadron.

Crew members inspect the tail of a 115 Squadron Bomber.
Crew members inspect the tail of a 115 Squadron Bomber.

Alkemade was part of a crew that flew an Avro Lancaster MK II bomber, which was capable of carrying the largest bombs used by the RAF during the Second World War. These bombers often flew night missions, and, as such, the bomber that Alkemade’s crew manned was christened Werewolf.

Alkemade flew fourteen successful missions with the crew of Werewolf, and on the night of 24 March 1944 they were part of a bombing raid targeting Berlin. They successfully delivered their payload, but on the return journey heavy winds took them off course. They ended up flying over the Ruhr region, which had a high concentration of anti-aircraft defenses.

Avro Lancaster B Mk II
Avro Lancaster B Mk II

Werewolf was attacked from below by a German night-fighter aircraft, and the resulting damage tore up Werewolf’s wing and fuselage, and set the plane on fire. It was obvious that Werewolf was beyond salvation, and the pilot ordered the crew to grab their parachutes in preparation for an emergency exit from the burning aircraft.

Alkemade, alone in his turret at the back of the plane, was already being scorched by the flames, with his rubber oxygen mask beginning to melt on his face, and his arms seared by the fire. Scrambling for his parachute in a panic, he was hit with a moment of pure dread when he finally located it – for his parachute, like everything else around him, was on fire.

Avro Lancaster B I PA474
Avro Lancaster B I PA474

Faced with a terrible choice – that of burning to death, or falling to his death, Alkemade chose the latter option. Better to suffer the brief terror of the fall and have a swift, merciful end than suffer through the torment of fire. He jumped from the burning plane without his parachute, and, falling at almost 120mph and looking up at the starry sky and the burning airplane from which he had just jumped, he lost consciousness.

Amazingly he woke up three hours later, lying in deep snow in a pine forest. It seemed that the flexible young pines had slowed his descent enough that the snow was able to cushion his fall. He had not broken any bones, but had managed to sprain his knee after his 18,000 foot fall from the sky. In addition, he had suffered burn wounds from the fire and had pieces of perspex from his flak-shattered screen embedded in his skin.

Lancaster pilot at the controls, left, flight engineer at right
Lancaster pilot at the controls, left, flight engineer at right

While he had survived the fall, surviving the rest of the night was not a guarantee. His knee was in too much pain for him to walk, and the freezing cold was beginning to take its toll.

He began blowing his distress whistle, which eventually attracted the attention of some German civilians. He was taken to Meschede Hospital where his wounds were treated, and when he was well enough to talk, he was interrogated by the Gestapo.

He told them his story, but they refused to believe that he could have survived such a fall without a parachute. They insisted that he had buried his parachute somewhere and that he was a spy – but when they sent men to investigate the landing site, as well as the wreckage of Werewolf, they were amazed to find that the remains of Alkemade’s parachute were indeed still in the wreckage of the plane.

A model of one compound of the huge Stalag Luft III Photo by Wikigraphists CC BY SA 3.0
A model of one compound of the huge Stalag Luft III Photo by Wikigraphists CC BY SA 3.0

Alkemade then became something of a celebrity, and met a number of Luftwaffe officers who wanted to hear about his miraculous jump. However, this did not earn him any special treatment, and like any other captured Allied airman he was sent to the notorious prison camp Stalag Luft III.

Read another story from us: Revealing the Ineffectiveness of Early British Night-Bombing Raids

Alkemade’s luck remained with him, though. When the camp’s 10,000 inmates were forced to trek hundreds of miles across northern Germany, through a blizzard, with temperatures dropping as low as -22 degrees C, he survived and was eventually liberated.

After the war Alkemade worked in the chemical industry in the UK, and lived to the age of 64. He passed away in June 1987.


Mystery death of key MP witness in Diana’s ‘murder’ Posted September 21st 2019

POLICE probing a possible SAS link to Princess Diana’s death are being thwarted because of the mysterious death of a top UK politician.

ByRichard Spillett

  • 07:10, 20 SEP 2013
  • Updated12:03, 7 MAY 2015
Princess Diana’s ‘murder’ probe has been thwarted [EPA]

Robin Cook, who was Foreign Secretary when Diana died, would have had the ultimate say about any plan to kill her.

So detectives leading the new Scotland Yard inquiry into the Princess’s death would have been anxious to question him.

But the apparently fit and healthy Mr Cook died in 2005 while walking on a remote Scottish mountainside.

A helicopter took 30 minutes to get to the scene after he tumbled just 8ft down a ridge.

Mr Cook’s wife, Gaynor, did not get in the helicopter and was instead left to walk down the mountain.

By the time she got to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, her husband had already been pronounced dead. A heart attack was blamed. He was 59.

Mr Cook died a year before the conclusion of Operation Paget, the Met’s official inquiry into Diana’s death, and two years before the official inquest.

His death had a huge effect on efforts by French authorities to get to the bottom of Diana’s car crash horror in central Paris in 1997.

A senior French judicial source said: “It would have been important for us to question Mr Cook about these dramatic developments.

“If the accusation is that he was the man who may have sanctioned an attack, then of course his answers would be crucial. So many lines of inquiry led to him and his office.”

Former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove testified on oath at the Diana inquest in 2007 that Mr Cook would have been required to issue a “Class Seven Authorisation”.

This would have unleashed an armed unit with a “licence to kill”, in the kind of plot a former SAS soldier has said was played out in the Alma Tunnel.

Diana’s Mercedes smashed into the underpass wall, killing her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their French chauffeur Henri Paul.

An SAS sniper, known only as Soldier N, has since said Diana was murdered, adding to the growing belief that her death may not have been an accident.

Former Foreign Secretary had final say over SAS ‘license to kill’ [EPA]

Around 30 SAS soldiers who were serving in 1997 have now been re-interviewed in an internal probe.

On April 7, 2008, an inquest jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the “grossly negligent” driving of Henri Paul and pursuing paparazzi photographers, but such findings have been hotly disputed.

Now it is argued that Diana was murdered when a piercing light was shone directly at the car she was travelling in.

Soldier N’s ex-wife told Scotland Yard detectives last month that her former husband decided to confide all to her after taking Prince William, then 26, on an advanced driving course in 2008.

He told his wife he already knew of the alleged plot to kill her, but a face-to-face encounter with the young prince convinced him to open up for the first time.

Will There Ever Be an Investigation Into the Death of ROBIN COOK…? TAP News Posted by Robert Cook September 21st 2019

Sat 5:46 am +00:00, 22 Aug 2015 14 posted by Gordon


I happened to notice that a week or so ago was the 10th anniversary of the death of the Labour MP and former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

An apparently fit and healthy Mr Cook died in 2005 while walking on a remote Scottish mountainside, at the age of 59, and – according to the official statements – from a heart attack. Something tells me that the Chilcot Inquiry, whenever it eventually does emerge, will probably make no mention of Mr Cook’s death.

The local police’s statement after Cook’s death was a little iffy, to say the least; “As this would appear to be a medical matter,” we were told, “there is no further police involvement.” And that was it – case closed, without a real investigation having been conducted.

Just as curious was the fact that the newspapers and news media didn’t seem particularly interested in investigating Cook’s death either and the matter seemed to be pushed to one side very quickly; which is odd when it concerns the death of a highly significant political figure and the man who had only very recently been the nation’s Foreign Secretary.

Robin Cook had died very suddenly, supposedly from a heart attack while on a countryside walk with his wife. But despite the media’s remarkably limited and unquestioning coverage of the matter, there were irregularities around the circumstances of Cook’s death. Cook was rushed to hospital by helicopter without his wife, who was not permitted to accompany him, even though he was still alive at that point. The helicopter, according to newspaper reports, had taken 30 minutes to arrive at the scene. As her husband was flown off, Mrs Cook was left to walk all the way back down the Scottish mountainside on her own.

By the time she got to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, her husband had already been pronounced dead. Gaynor Cook, his wife, has never spoken about the matter to this day, despite requests from various media organisations. The post-mortem took two days to decide whether Mr Cook “had died from an illness or injuries sustained in the fall”. The cause of death eventually settled on was ‘hypertensive heart disease’.

We were told that neither Mr Cook or his wife were carrying mobile phones with them; which, though possible, seems odd, as this was only 2005 – not the early nineties.

There is also the matter of the unidentified group of ‘walkers’ who, according to official reporting, came to Gaynor Cook’s aid when her husband had collapsed in the highlands. Is is, however, noted by some that it would’ve been unusual for such people to be around the area of Ben Stack where Mr Cook had collapsed. The landlady of Scourie Lodge, where Robin Cook and his wife had spent their final night together, had said at the time, “She was lucky another walker was in the area to be with her at such a time. You could be on Ben Stack ninety times and not see a soul, so for someone to be within shouting distance and with a mobile phone was very fortunate.”

Which leads us to wonder whether these unidentified people may have been there at that time for a more specific reason and whether they may have been something more than friendly passers-by.

Tony Blair, who was at that time still Prime Minister (and who had, some years earlier, demoted Cook to a lesser post for fear of Cook being a problem in regard to foreign policy), declined to attend Mr Cook’s funeral; the excuse given being that he was apparently busy with other matters at the time. It was Gordon Brown who gave the eulogy at Cook’s funeral service.


Cook (pictured on the right above), of course, had been one of the most ardent objectors to British involvement in the Iraq War. In fact he famously resigned from the Labour Party in protest over the decision to invade Iraq. “I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament and that our patience is exhausted,” Mr Cook had said at the time, “yet it is more than 30 years since Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.”

He also later was open about his scepticism concerning the Al-Qaeda narrative. “There were no international terrorists in Iraq until we went in. It was we who created the conditions for Al-Qaeda to thrive,” he had said, refuting the idea that the US-led invasion had been aimed at ‘fighting terrorism’. He was correct, of course; there had been no terrorism coming from Iraq prior to 2003, no extremist groups active in Iraq prior to 2003, and Iraq had had absolutely no connection to 9/11. Iraq, like Libya soon to follow, had been a stable, secular country until Western operations callously turned it into an Al-Qaeda/terrorist stronghold.

It was Robin Cook’s sense of ethics more than anything that had guided his protest against the Blair government’s war; that same sense of ethics had been present in much of Mr Cook’s political career.

He was an early supporter of constitutional and electoral reform, and a supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Among other things, Cook was responsible for the agreement between Britain and Iran that ended the Iranian death threat against the author Salman Rushdie, helping Britain and Iran to improve diplomatic relations. He is also the man most credited with having helped convince Gaddafi-era Libya, after over eight years of resistance, to hand over the suspected Lockerbie bombers for a trial in the Netherlands (but crucially according to Scottish law). This Libyan extradition of the Lockerbie suspects (who it turns out were probably innocent anyway) was a major reason that Libya and the West were able to ‘reconcile’ for those brief few years, with the Gaddafi government becoming a key ally in the so-called ‘War on Terror’.

His openly stated desire to add “an ethical dimension” to British foreign policy didn’t only see him falling out with the Blair government over the Iraq War; in March 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily cancelled a dinner with Cook when the British Foreign Secretary did that rare thing (for a Western politician) and openly criticised illegal Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory.

His opposition to the Iraq War was one of the key themes in his widely acclaimed book, The Point of Departure, which, among other things, discussed in diary form his efforts to persuade his colleagues, including Tony Blair, to distance the Labour Government from the Geo-political agendas of the Neo-Con/Bush administration (obviously to no avail). Cook’s resignation speech in the House of Commons (video shown above – and notice Jeremy Corbyn on Cook’s right) received a standing ovation by fellow MPs, and it was described by the BBC’s Andrew Marr as “without doubt one of the most effective, brilliant resignation speeches in modern British politics.”

According to Cook’s obituary in The Economist‍, this had in fact been the first speech ever to receive a standing ovation in the history of the House, and it was a substantial embarrassment to the Blair government.

Summing up the character of the Iraq invasion, Mr Cook had said; “Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term – namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create?”

It was also Robin Cook who was willing to openly state, in 2005, that Al-Qaeda was little more than a long-held ‘database of mujahideen and fighters’, stating that the myth of a real terrorist network called ‘Al-Qaeda’ and led by Osama bin Laden was simply a fiction concocted and maintained by the CIA.


In a column for The Guardian just weeks before his death, he expressed that view; a view that has since been borne out absolutely by facts. Al-Qaeda of course does exist now, but only due to a kind of self-fulfilled prophecy; but at that time, and the time of 9/11, it is very doubtful that the organisation  existed as anything like the highly-organised ‘bogeyman’ it was being portrayed as. Robin Cook, and many other British politicians – in the Foreign Office at the very least – would’ve been well aware of that, and well aware of the fact that British intelligence had been working with Al-Qaeda affiliates for many years, for example in the ongoing operation in Libya to assassinate Gaddafi.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker was among those who believe that Cook did not die of natural causes, but was the victim of an intelligence agency assassination. If true, Mr Cook, like the weapons expert Dr David Kelly, might be seen as yet another domestic victim of the Iraq War conspiracy; a war that was carried out against the wishes of the British people, against the rules of international law, a war based on proven lies, a war that was entirely unnecessary, and a war that we are still all living with the consequences of.

The absolute lack of interest by virtually all of the mainstream media in looking into the death of Robin Cook remains very suspect, just like the lack of police interest at the time. Then again, even should an investigation be carried out, it probably wouldn’t be a reliable one anyway – as anyone who studies the Diana inquest will find out for themselves. That, in all likelihood, will also apply to the Chilcot Inquiry, which for all the interminable delays that have prevented its publication, is unlikely to accomplish very much.

Editorial Comment The British public think intelligence devised assassinations only happen in Holloywood films. They have a sentimental view of the past and think such behaviour just ‘isn’t cricket old boy.’ Robin Cook signed his death warrant by pointing out that Bin Laden was trained by the CIA and SAS and that Al-Qaeda was his rebels’ code name, meaning DATA FILE. Cook wrote this in ‘The Guardian’ five weeks before his death.

I was at a party held in the House of Commons terrace marque during the run up to the Blair Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003. While chatting with Norwich New Labour MP Ian Gibson, I noticed he was wearing a lapel badge which said : ‘Don’t attack Iraq.’ So I asked him how he could serve under Tony Blair because in my view an attack was imminent. ‘Oh the boy is learning’ he replied in his Victor Meldrew style soft condescending Scottish accent. I met Gibson at another party, two years later in Norwich. He was in the company of upper class actor Tim Bentick. Gibson mocked me, shouting out; ‘He’s here, the last rebel.’ The essence of New Labour, the fake modernisers defies description beyond the words ‘lizard like.’

Robert Cook September 22nd 2019

Why Does the U.S. Support Saudi Arabia, A Country Which Hosts and Finances Islamic Terrorism? On Behalf of Washington? Posted September 22nd 2019

By Washington’s Blog Global Research, November 29, 2017 Washington’s Blog and Global Research 30 August 2014 Region: Middle East & North Africa Theme: Intelligence, Terrorism

First published in August 2014, this essay brings to the forefront Washington’s relentless support for Saudi Arabia, a State sponsor of terror, which has been waging since 2015 a war on the people of Yemen, tantamount to genocide.   

America Has Sold Its Soul for Oil

Why Does the U.S. Support a Country which was FOUNDED With Terrorism

A U.S. congressman for 6 years,  who is now a talking head on MSNBC (Joe Scarborough) says that – even if the Saudi government backed the 9/11 attacks – Saudi oil is too important to do anything about it:
This is not an isolated incident. It is a microcosm of U.S.-Saudi relations.


By way of background, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke notes that Saudi Arabia was founded with terrorism:

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)


Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.


Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.

Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.


Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”

Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”

In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.


With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world … to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.


It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.


The more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS?

Frontline notes:

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of “Wahhabism,” an austere form of Islam, arrives in the central Arabian state of Najd in 1744 preaching a return to “pure” Islam. He seeks protection from the local emir, Muhammad ibn Saud, head of the Al Saud tribal family, and they cut a deal. The Al Saud will endorse al-Wahhab’s austere form of Islam and in return, the Al Saud will get political legitimacy and regular tithes from al-Wahhab’s followers. The religious-political alliance that al-Wahhab and Saud forge endures to this day in Saudi Arabia.

By the 19th century, the Al Saud has spread its influence across the Arabian Peninsula, stretching from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and including the Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.


By 1945, the U.S. urgently needs oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War. Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Abd al-Aziz’s concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.

U.S. presidents have been extremely close to the Saudi monarchs ever since.

The Progressive notes:

The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.


Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

But instead of isolating the Saudi regime from the global mainstream, President Obama paid a visit there earlier this year, meeting with King Abdullah. He reportedly did not discuss the regime’s dubious conduct.

“I can’t think of a more pernicious actor in the region,” British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid told me in an interview last year. “The House of Saud has exported this very pernicious form of militant Islam under U.S. watch. Then the United States comes in repeatedly to attack symptoms of this problem without ever addressing the basic issue: Where does it all come from? Who’s at the heart of this thing? It would be like saying that if you have skin rash because of cancer, the best option is to cut off your skin. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Yet, the United States continues with this approach.

Even establishment opinion is recognizing the dimensions of the Saudi problem.

“It can’t be exporting extremism and at the same time ask the United States to protect it,” Retired General (and onetime presidential contender) Wesley Clark recently told CNN.

“Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings,” Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations recently wrote in the New York Times. “For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism [another term for Wahhabism] across the globe.”

Such entities “have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism,” he adds.


Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a December 2009 leaked diplomatic cable that entities in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”


Yet the United States keeps mum because the Saudi monarchy serves U.S. interests. Due to its pivotal role in OPEC, it makes sure that crude oil prices don’t rise above a certain level. It is a key purchaser of American weapons. It invests in U.S. government bonds. And it has acted in the past as proxy for covert U.S. actions, such as funneling arms and funding to the Nicaraguan contras.


Until Saudi Arabia stops sponsoring the most reactionary brands of Sunni Islam, this U.S. ally will remain responsible for much of the mayhem in the Muslim world.

The Independent headlines “Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country”:

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”


There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.


Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.


Dearlove … sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.


But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.”


Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq.


For all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.


Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open.

As we’ve extensively documented, the Saudis and the U.S. backed the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.

Indeed, the U.S. is backing the most radical Muslim terrorists in the world: the Salafis, who are heavily concentrated in Saudi Arabia, while overthrowing the more moderate Arabs.Declassified 9/11 Report Portrays US-Saudis as Partners in Crime The original source of this article is Washington’s Blog and Global Research Copyright © Washington’s Blog, Washington’s Blog and Global Research, 2017

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RAF Seletar – Singapore

The Last Spitfire Operational Sortie

PS888 'The Last' Seletar 1954 (1)


(takes to the skies once more).

By David Taylor

First published in the August 2004 (issue 23) of Searchlight

50 years after the event (April 1st 1954), the 81 Squadron Spitfire that flew the type’s last operational sortie in RAF service from Seletar has taken to the air once again; well, almost! It all began in July 2002 when George Yallop, an ex ARS engine fitter, submitted a photograph of Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS888 to the Daily Mail, for their “Every Picture Tells a Story” feature. The words, The Last!’ were painted on the port side engine cowling, and the text related to how this aircraft had flown the RAF’s last operational sortie of a Spitfire. At the time, I contacted the Mail, sending them a letter for onpass to George, inviting him to join the Association. I never received a reply, but have since learned that George is so into Riley cars he has no time for anything else.

Another person to see that article, aviation photographer and Spitfire historian, Peter Arnold, decided to take things a stage or two further. During a chance meeting with Sqn Ldr Paul Day, at the time CO of the BBMF at Coningsby, he made the suggestion that if, when the six year major service and repaint of their PR Mk XIX PS915 was due, they wished to paint it as The Last!’, he would do the research and prepare the drawings. With the go ahead being given, PS 915 emerged from its winter 2003-04 major inspection, contracted to the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, as PS888, in almost every aspect apart from the registration.

Of course, the story was a lot more complicated than that, for with only monochrome photos available, they needed information from somewhere as to colouring etc. Enter Brian Rose (464), ex ARS aircraft finisher (and friend of George Yallop; which is how I came to know about the Rileys!) – in fact it was Brian who supplied the paint for the lettering. The words were in fact applied about an hour after the aircraft returned from its mission – a photo-recce sortie over a suspected bandit camp in Johore – one George Travis, 81 Sqn member, and ex sign-writer, turning up with a cigarette tin, requesting Brian to fill it with white paint, and to supply a brush. Once duly painted, Sqn Ldr Swaby, the pilot, and 81 Sqn CO, along with the Station CO, Grp Cpt T King, conducted a small ceremony out by the aircraft, and that was it. Well, not quite, as an extract from my book, Seletar- Crowning Glory, explains:

81 Squadron also featured prominently in the news in April 1954, when on the 1st of the month Spitfire PR19, PS888, took off from Seletar to make what was to be the last operational flight of the type with the Royal Air Force. Strange, that, to all but 81 Squadron. Some months earlier they had been piqued to learn that not only had 60 Squadron (Tengah) been credited with flying the last operational sortie, back in 1951, but that Rolls Royce and Vickers Armstrong had actually presented them with silver model Spitfire to commemorate the event!

Sqn Ldr W P Swaby, 81’s Squadron Commander, decided to take the matter up officially, and in a letter to Far East Air Force Headquarters he stated:

It is noted that the flying carried out by the Spitfires of No. 81 Squadron should not have been classified operational with effect from January 1st 1951, and you are therefore requested to transfer the total of 1874.25 hours and 1029 operational sorties flown from that date to the training columns. Alternatively, the squadron will be pleased to accept an 18 inch high silver model of a Spitfire from the Commanding Officer of No. 60 Squadron in commemoration of current operations.

A result of all this was that, on November 21st 1954, Rolls Royce and Vickers Armstrong made amends for someone else’s error by presenting 81 Squadron with their own silver Spitfire. The presentation had been made by no less a personality than Mr Jeffrey Quill, OBE AFC, who, as the former Supermarine Chief Test Pilot, had flown every mark of Spitfire, including the first prototype in 1936.

What I’d be interested in finding out – been chasing after it for some years now, especially for my book on Seletar, but no luck so far – are details of that presentation. We know it was made by Jeffery Quill, we know the date; but how and where? Someone who was on the Sqn at the time must recall some details, but I haven’t yet been able to come up with any answers. I even contacted the Spitfire Association, British Aerospace (no longer any records of Vickers Supermarine), and Alex Henshaw, ex-racer, record breaker (in fact, believe it or not, his London – Capetown record, down the West coast of Africa, set in 1939, still stands!), Spitfire test pilot and good friend of the late Jeffery Quill, all to no avail. Does anyone out there possess any of this information?

Now for a few facts, rumours, was-told-by’s, etc on 81 Sqn’s Spitfires; gleaned from ex Sqn members, so don’t quote me!

At the time the squadron had three Spitfires: PS888, PS890, plus one other, serial unknown.

According to Keith Priest (177), that last Op was actually thought to have been a failure due to camera problems.

One Spitfire remained at Seletar for up to a year (Al Taylor arrived on 81 in April 55 and it was there then), presumably as a Station hack, and Sqn Ldr Swaby’s plaything! Yet, as Bob North (95) recalls it:

Some weeks or months later the three Spits were sold to the Royal Thailand Air Force. A fairly large group of RTAF bods arrived with so much gold braid on their shoulders you wouldn’t believe it. Their instruction in flying the planes seemed to consist mainly of three or four of them at a time leaning over the cockpits and having all the gubbins explained to them. They then took it in turns to fly. They were very brave men but not very good pilots as most of the landings were something to behold – such as dropping down onto the runway from about twenty feet up, and then bouncing up again. I was surprised that any of them were airworthy for the flight to Thailand.

PS890 was presented to the Planes Of Fame Museum, Chino California, in the late 50’s. She eventually flew about two years ago, albeit with contra-rotating props and clipped wings. I did have the pleasure of seeing this plane just a few months before she flew again.

Al Taylor (114), in Queensland, offers the following:

With Tengah-based 60 Sqdn having laid claim to the honour of flying the Spitfire’s last Operational sortie in 1951 (a ground attack mission), working on the assumption that PR flights did not count as ops, but forgetting that they had no target without 81’s PR prowess.

The theory is posed, to end the sour grapes by 60 Sqdn at having had the honour rightfully wrested from their grasp, that the matter should be ended once and for all by an air to ground attack on 60 Sqdn lines. Approval was apparently forthcoming, (Sqn Ldr Swaby, in his quest for justice, again went right to the top – H.Q. F.E.A.F.or maybe even the MOD?) and this raid was given ‘Firedog1 status, with authority to use 200 sheet ‘Aunty Mary’ issue Bog Rolls. Bog Rolls were duly armed to unravel upon release and installed in the Spitfire PR 19 bomb rack flaps and 1/4 flaps selected. It is said that PS 888, still bearing The Last!’ livery, was used for this operation.

The above would indicate that this “Op” took place after April 1954, although Bob North seems to think it was in 52/53, before he joined the Sqn, and certainly before PS888’s mission, therefore well before the livery was applied, so maybe that was a separate issue?

Data held at Hendon on PS888 is as follows:

2/4/45 6 MU (Service delivery)

24/4/45 IPPBenson

17/6/45 542 Squadron

12/10/45 6 MU

13/12/50 Dispatched FEAF via Chivenor

27/12/50 Arrived FEAF

31/1/51 MBFE (Storage) – (MBFE: Maintenance Base, Far East?)

31/1/51 81 Squadron

3/6/53 Flying accident – damage category 3*

Sqn Ldr Swaby

5/6/53 Re-categorised Category A

15/4/54 MBASE(R) PI

Struck Off Charge

3/6/54 Transferred to Thai Air Force.

*Accident card records that at 0950GH Sergeant D G Hood was landing at Seletar after a formation sortie. The aircraft “touched down heavily with side load causing u/c to collapse”.

“Pilot lacks practice on Spitfires – to be restricted to Mosquitos for remainder of tour.”

Taxiing in (George Jarvis with chock )

Photos by Brian Rose

Adding the script-enhanced-1

PS888 Adding the script(Photo Brian Rose)

Sqn Ldr Swaby exits

Taxiing in (George Jarvis with chock )(Photo Brian Rose)

SqnLdr W P Sawby-1

Sqn Ldr Swaby

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